Read Time: 3 Min

Social Security Disability- Understanding the System

October 8, 2012

After reading a recent article in the Buffalo News entitled “A brief review of how Social Security disability payments work” I thought I could address some of the issues that in my experience many people face in navigating and understanding the system.

Depending on your own situation, you may be eligible for one or more of the following:

  1. Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits: a benefit for disabled workers who have worked long enough to be covered under the Social Security system;
  2. Supplemental Social Security Income Benefits: a benefit paid to disabled persons who meet federal poverty guidelines, regardless of whether they have worked or paid into the Social Security System;
  3. Disabled Widow or Widower’s Benefits: a benefit available to disabled adults over the age of 50 whose spouse worked under the Social Security system, and is deceased;
  4. Disabled Adult Child Benefits: a benefit available to unmarried, disabled adults whose disability began before age 22, and who has a parent that has worked under the Social Security system, and is deceased, retired or disabled;
  5. SSI Child Disability Benefit: a benefit available to persons under the age of 18 who are disabled.

How Social Security decides if you are disabled:

Step 1: Are you working?
Step 2: Is your condition severe?
Step 3: Is your condition one that is found in SSA’s Medical listing?
Step 4: Can you do the work that you previously did?
Step 5: Can you do any other type of work?

In order to initiate a claim, visit the Social Security site. You can also call Social Security’s toll free number at 1-800-772-1213 or visit a local Social Security District Office for assistance.

According to the Social Security website over 3 million new applications will be received this year which is more than 300,000 over last year.

The Social Security Commissioner has succeeded in small part to shorten the wait time which had originally been around 36 months in New York State by hiring hundreds of judges and support staff. In Western New York applicants can expect a wait of two years or more.

Many people apply initially without an attorney or Social Security Disability Representative. If you do file on your own and get denied, you should consult with one of them to assist with the appeal process immediately. The right attorney or Representative can help you get additional medical and vocational information that will be helpful in winning your claim.

If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments section or email me at I would be happy to answer them for you.